Open Discussion: Back to the Future

I’ve heard before, and now cannot recall where or when precisely, that you tend to notice different things when you watch a film repeatedly, or listen to an album.

When I was about six, the third and final installment of Back to the Future was released. As far as trilogies go, I’ve never seen The Godfather and quickly lost interest in both Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.

Many people enjoy those franchises, which is fine, more power to you.

When I was perhaps nine or so, I forget when exactly, I vividly recollect spending summer Sundays with my old man watching movies- some on Laserdisc, no less. They are to DVDs what LP Vinyl was to CDs. This may even still be lost on you young’uns that only know music through mp3 format.

Lest I digress.

When I was young, I spent more than one fond Sunday being thrilled by the action and special effects of Back to the Future. Once I learned how to drive, the idea of a flying DeLorean to circumvent traffic became even more alluring.

Once I was late for something semi-important, the time-travel capability also became something to covet.

I could write an speculative essay on the film’s appeal and the regret we as a society harbor about our pasts. I won’t, for now.

I mentioned earlier that certain aspects of a creative endeavour- film, music, art, and even things you wouldn’t think of like cars, music players, planes (basically anything made by people that gets revised, or changed over time) can be overlooked. But when you look at something long enough, or walk away from it and come back to it, certain things can suddenly seem obvious that previously escaped notice.

The film obviously deals with time travel, accomplished via a modified DeLorean and a nuclear reaction. The film’s first act (the first film, as all three viewed back-to-back-to-back form a continous, cohesive whole) tells the story of Marty, a 1980s teen, sent back to 1955 where he accidentally interferes in his parent’s meeting and must bring them together (otherwise he is never born).

In the second act (film two), Marty’s mentor Doc brings him to the future to prevent the future disintegration of his family following his future son’s arrest. During this, the elder antagonist, Biff, steals the DeLorean, goes back to 1955, and gives his younger self information that will allow him to make an illicit fortune and become very powerful, which he abuses greatly.

To fix the damage, Marty and Doc travel back to 1955 and have to tiptoe around their earlier selves to ensure that they don’t interfere with the events of the first film.

I understand it’s complex if you haven’t seen it. The point is, at the end of the second film, Doc is in a flying DeLorean and is struck by lightning. This causes a series of misfires and Doc is sent back to 1885. Marty is quickly served with an old letter Doc wrote to Marty to be delivered at that moment in 1955, so Marty can find the DeLorean Doc was in, fix it, and get himself home.

Marty digs the car up in a mine shaft in 1955 per Doc’s instructions. VERY IMPORTANT

Marty and the 1955 Doc fix the car, and Marty goes back to 1885 intending to rescue his friend and bring both of them back to 1985 where they belong.

Shortly after arriving in 1885, Marty rips the car’s fuel line and parks it in a cave.

The DeLorean that brought Doc to 1885 is hidden in the mine.

When the two are brainstorming how to get back to 1985 a short while later, the ripped fuel line rules out the DeLorean from simply driving to the necessary 88 mph. There are no gas stations to refuel the car.

What about the car Doc hid in the mine? You can’t patch the line on Marty’s car and siphon gas from Doc’s car (leaving Doc’s in the mine for Marty to uncover in 1955, where getting some gas is fairly easy).

I must have seen this film fifteen times and it only dawned on me now. If I was in that situation, that would be one of the first things I’d try. It seems easier than hijacking a train to push the car to 88 mph, anyway.

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